Lean Hardware Strategy Lets Kickstarter Breakout Nomiku ‘In-Shore’ Manufacturing Back To The U.S.
“In the 1980s, Silicon Valley’s hardware elite began outsourcing much of the semiconductor and hardware manufacturing work that gave the region its name to Asia.
But now that the economics of hardware startups have fundamentally changed with new ways to test consumer interest and get feedback through platforms like Kickstarter, some startups are finding that it’s easier to build products locally because the design-and-testing cycles are much tighter.
One example is Nomiku, an immersion circulator that lets amateur chefs use the high-brow technique of sous vide in their home kitchens. When Nomiku built its original prototypes, the trio of founders behind the company had to decamp for Shenzhen for several months to learn how to maneuver through suppliers there with hardware accelerator HXLR8R.
Now with the second version, they’re bent on manufacturing Nomikus locally …. ‘We can iterate much faster here,’ said co-founder Lisa Fetterman. ‘China is great if you have your design down pat. But if you’re creating something new that nobody’s ever seen before, you need to rapidly prototype.’
She added, ‘It’s surprising that it’s cheaper to do prototyping in San Francisco rather than China, and the turnaround is faster.’ The manufacturing cost gap between China and the U.S. has narrowed as wages in the local industry have nearly doubled since 2008. The shrinking cost differential has compelled other hardware companies like former Wired editor Chris Anderson’s drone startup 3D Robotics to ‘near-shore’ production to Mexico. That, in turn, has fueled a thriving cross-border startup scene in San Diego and Tijuanawhere low-cost engineering talent can quickly turnaround prototypes.
Fetterman explains that while the Chinese market is great for mass producing thousands or hundreds of thousands of units of a product, it’s less great for customization and small runs.”